Edinburgh's 101 Objects - Building a City

*Please note - this unique campaign has now ended, however the majority of objects are still available to see around the city so please continue to browse and enjoy our Edinburgh's 101 Objects itineraries. The information was correct as of 30/07/2019.

The Edinburgh of today took hundreds of years to become the city we know. Edinburgh's 101 Objects gives you the opportunity to visit and see first-hand the artefacts that played parts and saw history unfold in the story of Scotland's capital. Follow the itinerary below to walk the streets that have been the witnesses of hundreds of years of change.

Begin your journey in Edinburgh's past - at the Old Town's ancient boundaries in Greyfriars Kirkyard, where you can walk along what remains of Object 2 - otherwise known as the Flodden Wall. The wall was constructed to strengthen existing city walls following increased fears of English invasion at a time when Edinburgh was much smaller and the popualtion numbered just 10,000.

The Royal Mile

1 Heart Of Midlothian Hero V2

Your next stop is Object 1, the Heart of Midlothian - up Victoria Street, left onto George IV Bridge and then right, down onto the Royal Mile by St Giles' Cathedral. The heart-shaped mosaic on the pavement surface marks the spot where Edinburgh's tollbooth once stood, built more than 600 years ago. Some believe the tradition of spitting on the heart itself follows the actions of prisoners on release from the tollbooth, convinced of their desire never to return - or of residents, disgusted by the prisoners themselves.

As you head down the Royal Mile, take a brief detour via the Tron Kirk to take in Object 3, the church's clock, which for centuries was the focal point of Edinburgh's now world-famous ogmanay celebrations.

Walking further down the Royal Mile, you'll come to Object 4 at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. High up in its belltower is the Nether Bow Bell, made in 1621 in Holland. Now only rung in celebration, the sound of the bell in this tower was once part of the frabic of everyday life in Edinburgh.

14 Geddes Hero V2

Around the corner, in the garden of the Scottish Book Trust you'll find an oasis of calm, accompanied by Object 14 - a bronze bust of Sir Patrick Geddes. Through the centuries, as the population grew, the Old Town became more and more cramped and unpleasant. Following the constuction of the New Town, it was Geddes who created plans to repurpose and preserve large areas of the Old Town instead of knocking down the ancient architecture and rebuilding - preserving some of our city's oldest and most noteworthy buildings.

A little further down the Mile and you'll arrive at the Museum of Edinburgh, home of Object 6. So far, you've been walking the streets of Edinburgh's Old Town. 250 years ago it was at capacity. Conditions were cramped, unsanitary and increasingly dangerous. The Museum is home to the solution to these problems - a plan to drain the loch in what is now Princes Street Gardens, and a design for what is (still) known as the New Town.

The New Town

16 Scotsman Steps Hero V2

To explore the New Town, head back up the Royal Mile, to where it meets North Bridge and South Bridge. Object 16 - the Scotsman Steps - gives you marble-covered shortcut onto Market Street and the entrance to Waverley Train Station. In the station, you'll find Object 15 - a model of the North British "Atlantic", one of the most powerful steam trains to run on the Scottish intercity rail routes.

Exit Waverley Trian Station, and walk up to St Andrew Square - and into Dundas House, otherwise known as a branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Look up in the main hall to see Object 7 - the magnificent starred dome ceiling.

9 Maps Hero V2

Walking down George Street to the Assembly Rooms, go inside for a view of Object 9 - a pair of maps showing the New Town before and after construction of the Assembly Rooms. The maps demonstrate the alterations made to the plan for the New Town during its construction.

Returning to Princes Street, head towards the Mound Precinct to the National Gallery of Scotland, where you'll find Object 11 - a painting by Alexander Nasmyth of the view from Princes Street towards what is now Waverley Train Station and North Bridge. Painted only five years after the ocmpletion of the New Town, the scene is a reminder that many aspects of the city we take for granted today are relatively young. 

Also worth a look

Although they involve a detour from the path above, these objects reveal more of the stroy behind Edinburgh's development as a modern city, and are worth visiting.

8 St Bernard Well Hero V2

Another water well, Object 8 houses a fresh water spring discovered by three Edinburgh schoolboys. The neo-classical temple housing the spring and an ornate pump house reflect the time when Edinburgh was insistent on growing its image as the Athens of the North - and when sources of fresh, clean water within easy reach were still valuable and relatively rare.

Object 10 - the palatial frontage on the north side of Charlotte Square represents the vision behind James Craig's original plan for the New Town. Intended to resemble the front of a grand palace, there are really a number of properties making up the whole, including the Scottish First Minister's residence and Georgian House, a preserved example of the original townhouse interiors during the period when the New Town was constructed. 

12 Haymarket Milepost Hero V2

A symbol of the growing connections rail travel brought to Edinburgh, Object 12 is a milepost from the first steam train route between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Edinburgh has long been a gateway to the rest of Scotland, and the railways cemented its place - as well as fueled its expansion.

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